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Food safety and Indian restaurants

Food safety has always been a topic of major focus for policy-makers in India.

By Deputy Features Editor
Food safety and Indian restaurants

The Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) has recently issued a regulation in which every restaurant in every city will require a separate licence to ensure food safety. In addition, a food business firm will need a central licence obtained from the head office. To get the 'food business operator' licence, all restaurants and hotels, snack bars, cafes, school and office cafeterias, and cafes within hospitals will need to comply with a series of stringent guidelines, including specific hygiene practices.

Current scenario

India is passing through a strategic development when it comes to food and beverages. Not only Indian home-grown brands but also foreign brands are taking the Indian hospitality industry to greater heights. This globalisation of food trade has initiated a transnational system for food production.

According to industry experts, restaurateur these days neglects the value of safety when it comes to serving food. They only focus on taste and quality. The FSSAI law, which the government has implemented, is still being debated as there are certain points that needs to be taken into consideration. For example, the pesticide law that seeks to regulate the manufacture, quality, import, export and sale of pesticides to control pests, ensure availability of quality pesticides and minimise contamination of agricultural commodities with pesticide residue.

“Everything will be systemised once restaurants obtain the registration. The restaurant will be more liable to serve the hygienic food. Chances are that lapses will be very less and we will be able to cope up with the international brands that are coming to India and are already following these procedures”, says, Ramesh Gupta, F&B Manager, Meluha The Fern Group of Hotels, Mumbai.

The last five years

India has a fairly sophisticated F&B market, which is growing steadily. We have enough restaurants in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai, but there have been allegation in past that all restaurants are not appropriately following the food safety guidelines in the country. During last three-five years, restaurants those were serving high-quality food have neglected the food safety guidelines. For example, last October, a KFC outlet in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala was temporarily shut-down by the Kerala food safety authority after worms were found in a chicken dish.

According to Gupta, only 30 percent eateries in the country have taken the FSSAI licence so far. Speaking on the same, Asvin Simon, Owner, Bangs, comments, “Now that FSSAI has come with the norm, it is a great move. It was very important to check the hygiene because anyone can start a restaurant but consistency and hygiene matters a lot, now we can see lots of hygiene restaurant in the coming years with the formulation of the norm.”

FSSAI regulations

With August 4’ 2014 coming, we will see eateries in the country from restaurant brands such as KFC and McDonalds to in-hotel restaurants like Bukhara and Spice to the road side eateries to be under 'food business operator' licence issued by FSSAI. The authority plans to randomly check food joints across the country once the deadline for obtaining the licence is over with the help of state food authorities and if a restaurant is found guilty, the authority can penalise and even close such restaurants.

Speaking to the media, Samir Kuckreja, CEO and President, NRAI, says, "It's a progressive move though there are certain compliance issues that need to be addressed.”

With this move in the hospitality sector, restaurant owners are of the opinion that FSSAI needs to make the procedure more user-friendly so that it becomes easy for restaurant operators to comply with the guidelines. According to a media report, there are anywhere between 50-60 lakh eateries in the country. Food safety has been a perennial challenge in India with frequent cases of food adulteration and food poisoning. 

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